Wednesday, May 26, 2010

X-52 test successful!

By Graham Warwick

First flight of the Boeing X-51A Waverider hypersonic demonstrator is being hailed as a success, although the scramjet-powered vehicle did not achieve the planned flight duration.

The X-51A was released from its B-52 mothership over the Pacific off the California coast on May 25. The U.S. Air Force Research Laboratory told AVIATION WEEK the booster-and-cruiser “stack” separated from the B-52 and the booster ignited. Subsequently the booster separated, the scramjet engine ignited and the cruiser accelerated.

The Pratt & Whitney Rocketdyne hydrocarbon-fuelled, fuel-cooled scramjet engine was planned to run for 300 seconds, accelerating the X-51A from about Mach 4.5 to beyond Mach 6. The actual duration of the flight and maximum Mach number achieved have not yet been released. The vehicle splashed down in the Pacific.

The first flight was “a solid B”, says an AFRL spokesman. “We’ll get an A next time.”

Three more flights are planned, the next in 2011.

Credit: USAF

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